Title: The Mathematician Goes to Temple
Written for: izhilzha
Prompt: Don takes Charlie to temple
Word Count: 1285
Summary: Charlie accompanies Don to temple
Note: Many thanks to the amazing author and even more amazing beta, Statsgrandma; Thanks of course to Cheryl Heuton and Nicolas Falacci, creators of Numb3rs, and their episode, “Arrow of Time” that shows Don's synagogue. Also, thanks to Jordan Lee Wagner, who wrote the book “The Synagogue Survival Kit” which enabled this shiksa to understand a little bit about what happens in a synagogue.
To say Charlie was surprised to hear that Don was going to temple was putting it mildly. But he was even more surprised to hear the news from Larry and his dad. He couldn't recall ever saying anything negative about religion. He had made his feelings about psychics and numerology pretty clear, but not about religion. When he confronted Don about it, he was shocked to hear that Don was afraid of Charlie's reaction. But they were working on a case, so Charlie didn't mention it again. The question of whether God even existed did nag at his mind, so he started doing some reading on his own.
Finally, when things were a bit calmer and Don was at his desk catching up on paperwork, Charlie broached the subject again. “Hey, Don.” He hesitated. “Can I ask you a favor?”
“Sure, Buddy. What is it?”
“Next time you go to temple, would you mind if I came along?”
Don looked up, surprise clearly written on his face. After a moment's hesitation, he asked, “Why?”
Charlie pulled up a chair and sat next to his brother. “I'm curious. I know you said you haven't really figured things out, but, hey, Judaism is a big part of our family history. A part we have neglected.”
“But religion isn't logical. How would the existence of God fit with what you know through the scientific method?”
Charlie shrugged. “It could be logical. Look, we don't know how everything got started, do we? It could have been God, right? As a scientist, I would be a fool not to explore all of the possibilities.” Charlie perched on Don's desk. “Listen, I've been reading “Summa Theologica” by St. Thomas Aquinas…”
“You're kidding! Why are you slogging through that?”
“Larry suggested it. Thomas Aquinas listed five logical reasons for the existence of God. First of all, he cited motion - nothing moves unless something sets it into motion. But for motion to have started, there had to be something or someone that moved without being set into motion…”
“So you believe in God now?”
Charlie took a deep breath as he pondered. “I wouldn't say that. I just don't not believe. And I'm interested in what you're exploring. That's why I want to come with you. I promise I'll keep an open mind.”
Don leaned back in his chair and studied his brother's face. “All right.” He glanced at his watch. “We could make it for Maariv - the evening prayers.”
“No time like the present,” Charlie said, standing.
“You got a yarmulke? Or you need to borrow one?”
Charlie grinned, and reached into his computer bag. “Remember this?” He pulled out a yarmulke embroidered with math symbols.
Don touched the fabric. “Mom made that for you for your Bar Mitzvah. And you've carried it around with you all this time?”
“I had it in my office. I figured I'd bring it just in case you let me come with you.”
As they walked to Sinai Temple, Charlie asked, “What made you decide to go back to temple?”
Don took a deep breath and sighed. “A lot of things. Listen, you know I've been going through some ups and downs over the past couple of years. Ever since Crystal Hoyle. I was just beginning to wonder if maybe some of my questions could be answered by God.” He glanced at Charlie, waiting for his reaction.
Charlie nodded slowly. “I knew you were having problems. But I kind of wish you'd been able to discuss them with me.”
Charlie chuckled. “Okay, yeah, I can see that wouldn't make sense. I haven't exactly been helpful where emotions are concerned.”
“You're getting better, you know. It's been years since you've locked yourself in the garage to do unsolvable math problems.”
“Yeah. I'd say we've both changed.”
“Here we are,” Don said, leading the way up the steps to the synagogue. Before opening the door, he and Charlie placed their yarmulkes on their heads. “I haven't worn one of these since Mom's funeral,” Charlie said.
Don led the way to seats in the balcony. “It's easier to see what's happening from here,” he explained as they sat.
Don picked up a siddur from the rack in front of him and handed it to Charlie.
Charlie shook his head and pulled out his iPhone.
“Don't tell me there's an app for this?”
Charlie tapped on the phone's screen, then turned the phone so Don could see. “There is.”
“I'll stick with the old fashioned version,” Don chuckled as he found his place in the prayer book.
As they waited for the service to begin, Charlie studied their surroundings. There weren't many people in the synagogue, maybe thirty or so. A quick glance told him there were thirty eight. More than enough for a minyan, he thought. Memories of his preparation to become a Bar Mitzvah - a “Son of Commandment” or “Man of Duty” flooded over him. In the twenty one years since that day, he hadn't exactly turned his back on his faith. It was more that other things took priority.
Then when his mother had gotten cancer, Charlie's whole world had crashed down around him. His mother was a good person. Why would God take her? Didn't he see that her family needed her? It was bad enough that he took her away from them, but he let her suffer. Charlie couldn't stand to see her suffering, and in his weakness and confusion, he had withdrawn into the safe world of numbers. He blinked back tears and pushed those painful thoughts from his mind as he tried to distract himself by looking around at the stained glass, the ark, the Torah, the eternal flame, the other worshipers.
He wondered what brought the others here. Did they pray regularly, keep all the rules, or were they like Don, searching for truth? He glanced at his brother, who was turning the pages of his siddur.
Don looked up from the book. “What?” he asked softly.
Charlie shrugged. “Nothing. I was just…”
At that moment, the reader stepped to the podium and began chanting the evening prayer. Charlie found himself falling comfortably into the rhythms of worship.
As they left the synagogue, Don said, “You were keeping up pretty well. You sure you haven't been sneaking off to temple?”
“I have to admit I cheated,” Charlie said with a grin. “I did some research on the internet so I wouldn't make a complete fool of myself. It kind of makes me wish I'd paid more attention when we were kids. It has been a long time.”
Don nodded. “That it has.” He put his arm around Charlie's shoulders. “Thanks for coming, Buddy. What did you think?”
“It was interesting.”
“Interesting?” Don quirked an eyebrow at his brother.
“Yeah. I don't mean that negatively. It's hard to express. There's the feeling of connecting with thousands of years of Jewish history. Then there's the thought that if God does exist, we need to recognize the fact and respond appropriately. I don't know. It's food for thought, you know?”
“I get it. I feel the same way. You know, I wasn't sure how you'd react when you found out I was going to temple. Being a man of science, I figured you'd find all kinds of reasons why believing in God was, well, irrational.”
“I can see how you'd think that. I'm not always open to things that can't be proven.”
“Ya think?” Don laughed.
“But not everything that's true can be proven scientifically, so I'm going to keep an open mind.”
“You're growing up, Kid,” Don said, ruffling Charlie's hair.
“It happens to the best of us.”
- Numb3rs: The Mathematician Goes to Temple